Earlier this month, an underground forum released the code for the Mirai malware, which lets attackers hijack the thousands (and counting) of Internet of Things devices that are used to carry out distributed denial-of-service attacks.
Of course it did. This hack means that everyone can now view the code that allowed someone using the name Anna-senpai to harness 380,000 bots via weak telnet connections. Let's ignore for now that in 2016 there is absolutely no reason to have telnet on any IoT device.
That aside, much of the subsequent hand-wringing over default password damage control missed the one glaring thing that manufacturers, startups, and providers can do to prevent this sort of devastating vulnerability: Don't use default usernames and passwords in the first place.
The most common reasons for using default usernames and passwords boil down into a few key arguments (when you leave out "we've always done it this way," which I won't even dignify with a response because I know if you're reading this, that's not an argument you care about).
Users should reset the username and password when they get a device. Philosophically, they should. In reality, do they? No, they don't. This is putting your device security into the hands of human nature, which runs directly counter to high security by always looking for the path of least resistance.
It costs more. Let's be real: It probably will cost more up front. But the more important question is whether that investment is worth preventing a likely future debilitating attack on your network, your company, your customers, and your brand. Cyberattackers are becoming more sophisticated by the second, and as the Dark Reading audience knows, we've passed the time for "if" and moved into "when" as it relates to being attacked. It's a common argument for any cybersecurity investment, but it bears repeating because so many organizations will want their team to stick with the username/password formula.
It takes more time. Again, that's true. But the good news is that the technology exists today to make default passwords on IoT devices obsolete. It's not even a herculean undertaking; your engineers could implement the fixes below in a matter of weeks:
The bottom line is that IoT isn't going anywhere. We'll soon live in a world with billions of devices that will do everything from watch your cat to measure your REM sleep. With a little effort, your organization can be at the forefront of protecting these devices, all while breaking the seemingly endless cycle of username and password vulnerability.